The rising cost of living in downtown Durham


DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Downtown Durham is quickly becoming one of the most desirable places to be in the Triangle.

But some of the people running the restaurants, hotels and shops we love, can’t afford to live where they work.

It’s changing the meaning of affordable housing and proving to be a challenge to solve.

Downtown Durham’s skyline is speckled with cranes working to build up the quality of life for residents that can afford it.

“The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Durham is $1,324. And that’s a lot of money if you’re only making $40,000 a year,” said Peter Skillern, executive director of Reinvestment Partners in Durham.

Reinvestment Partners works with people to help them keep and get into affordable housing.

“It’s in fact cheaper to pay $300,000 for a home and live in it than it is to rent for $1,500 a month,” said Skillern of the increasing rent prices.

The North Carolina Housing Coalition says 45 percent of people renting apartments in Durham County have a difficult time affording them.

The average salary for a construction worker there is nearly $28,000.

The average salary for a waiter is just over $19,000.

“It’s imperative that Durham provides for everybody, not just one section of our economy,” said Scott Griffith, general manager of the 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Durham.

Griffith says his employees are having to move further and further away to find something affordable.

“The cost of living goes up, the cost of commute goes up. Our associates, the great associates we have working here and all the hotels and restaurants in Durham start looking closer to wherever they live,” said Griffith.

“There are neighborhoods that we can no longer plan to purchase anything. The minute something hits the market, it’s gone,” said Selina Mack, executive director of Durham Community Land Trustees.

Without help, affordable housing advocates like the Land Trustees are having a difficult time buying new units to rent because the price is skyrocketing.

The rising price is another reason why apartment prices are soaring.

Downtown Durham the 16th most expensive zip code in the state to rent in, according to Rent Café.

The City of Durham increased the amount of tax dollars allotted to affordable housing this year, from one to two cents on the dollar.

That came with a tax increase, which officials hope will fund 1,150 more affordable units in five years.

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